EDITORIAL | Jobs, growth: come clean, Mr PM

Prime Minister Narendra Modi during the BJP Central Election Committee (CEC) meeting for the upcoming Lok Sabha elections, at BJP headquarters in New Delhi. PTI

Economic growth and employment generation during the five years of the Narendra Modi government have come under scrutiny, thanks to the government’s own penchant for denying, hiding or revising data on these to its convenience. The latest to join the debate on this key question is former RBI governor Raghuram Rajan. He has questioned the veracity of the 7%-plus GDP growth reported by the government. Rajan has mooted setting up an independent body to ascertain the GDP growth figures under the revised series. Implicit in the suggestion is that data points have been window-dressed. Rajan’s argument is simple: if the economy clocked over 7% growth, why’s there this pall of gloom on the jobs front? This plainspeak has not gone down well with the government.

Rajan’s remarks come in the wake of the suppression of the National Sample Survey Organisation (NSSO) report that pointed to the highest level of unemployment in 45 years, at 6.1% in 2017-18 as against 2.2% in 2011-12. Another independent think-tank, the Centre for Monitoring Indian Economy (CMIE) reported unemployment at a high of 8.2% in February 2019 and said some 11 million jobs had been lost in 2018. Then, 108 economists from across the country shot off a letter to Modi expressing concern over the integrity of national statistical numbers. Typically, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley dismissed all criticism as coming from “compulsive contrarians”. Niti Aayog vice chairman Rajiv Kumar had promised to make public the NSSO report in March 2019. It’s April Fool’s Day, and the report is not yet out. The government’s nervousness is understandable. The NSSO report was the first periodic labour force survey that would have captured the job losses after the November 2016 demonetisation, which the government does not want revealed.

Real-time GDP growth at over 7% and nominal growth at 11.5-12% factoring in inflation, coupled with robust tax revenues in 2016-18, were cited by Jaitley to negate the criticism against the government. US consulting firm McKinsey recently said 20-26 million new jobs were created in 2014-2017 due to increased spending by government, IT hiring and small businesses. The government has cited Mudra loans and EPFO data to claim that over 10.7 million jobs were created between September 2017 and June 2018 alone. If the government’s claims on jobs is real, then why did it not release the NSSO report? The Lok Sabha elections are less than two weeks away, the Modi government must come up with a plausible explanation on jobs. After all, he had come to power promising the youth of this country 10 million jobs every year in the 2014 BJP manifesto. A comprehensive, verifiable jobs and economic growth report card must be presented before the people.

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EDITORIAL | Jobs, growth: come clean, Mr PM

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